Galveston's Latest Buzz

Island Hot Spots: A Sneak Peek at This Summer’s New Business Openings and Offerings

By Esther Davis McKenna
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As the summer sun casts its warm glow over Galveston, the island buzzes with the promise of new beginnings and exciting ventures. In the heart of this coastal haven, 1817 Steak & Seafare has already set the culinary scene abuzz with its delectable offerings, earning accolades from locals and visitors alike. Meanwhile, the intriguing new Museum Nefertiti not only captivates with its curated wonders but also dazzles with its unique new collection of lab-grown diamonds. 

 The summer season also marks a fresh start for the beloved Fish Company Taco, which is poised to make a triumphant return under new stewardship, ready to serve up its signature dishes once more. And for those seeking to bask in the beauty of Galveston’s waters, Baywatch Dolphin Tours is introducing new sunset cruises on the majestic Galveston Bay Queen, a 100-passenger riverboat destined to create unforgettable sunset memories. 

 Join us as we explore these vibrant additions to Galveston’s tapestry, each weaving their own story into the rich fabric of our island community. 

 1817 STEAK & SEAFARE This fine-dining waterfront eatery is now open and, according to reviews on social media, is well worth the wait. 1817 Steak & Seafare is the second restaurant endeavor of co-owners Jessica and John McAleer; having opened Lil’ Buffalo Grille in February 2022. Both restaurants are located in Galveston’s west end neighborhood of Evia. 

 The McAleers are part of a seventh-generation Texas family with two Buffalo Grille restaurants in Houston - the original dating back to 1984. The name of the new restaurant is a nod to the infamous pirate Jean Lafitte and 1817 is the year he settled the Campeche Colony, the area where Evia and the restaurant are located. 

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 1817 is open for dinner Sunday through Thursday, from 5pm to 10pm, and on Friday and Saturday, from 5pm to midnight. Hours will be extended to include lunch and brunch in the future. Menu items include prime steaks, seafood towers, charcuteries, high-end specials, and lighter fare. 

 The McAleers guided head chef Salvador Castro as to the “theme and direction” of the new menu but “let him spread his wings as far as the development of dishes.” 

 “Jessica and I gave him the canvas and he proved to be a culinary artist,” John said. 

 The couple felt the opportunities for late-night food and cocktails were limited on the island, especially on the west end.

 “No one offers a late-night, quality meal or craft cocktail on your way home from the city,” John said. “We wanted to fill that void for customers who prefer eating and drinking a little later.” 

 General Manager Hector Saravia created the craft cocktail menu. The McAleers also gave Hector some direction and he combined the perfect ingredients to create unique cocktails. 

 For example, they both wanted something to celebrate the pirate theme and asked Saravia to create a cocktail called ‘Velvet and Violence.’ The resulting drink of elderflower gin, Lemon Hart Demerara, and egg white was exactly what they were looking for him to create. 

 The wine list was curated by master sommelier Guy Stout, one of 240 masters in the world. Stout also trained the staff on wine pairings and service. 

 Unlike Lil’ Buffalo Grille which offers counter service, 1817 has a full wait staff. All tables have a waterfront view, and diners can sit inside or at shaded tables outside, under fans. The 2,000-square-foot restaurant includes a larger room for private parties. 

 1817 Steak & Seafare is located at 12 Evia Main, Suite 1205, in Evia. For more information or reservations, please call 409.765.1817. 

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DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER Lab-grown diamonds shine just as bright as their naturally cultivated counterparts, according to local expert Herman Contreras. He and his brother David own the recently opened Museum Nefertiti, named for the famed Egyptian queen, located at 415 22nd Street. 

 The Contreras brothers opened their first business at 2208 Postoffice selling fossils and minerals almost seven years ago, expanding with rare antiquities and they now offer lab-created diamonds.

 Herman is a certified diamond expert, having studied at the Gemological Institute of America and worked at Tiffany’s in St. Thomas. “The only difference between a lab-grown and a natural diamond is its origin,” he said. 

 “The process of making lab-produced or natural diamonds is exactly the same. It just takes a much shorter time.” 

 Museum Nefertiti carries high-grade, colorless diamond engagement rings from one-half carat, up to 10 carats. “Now you can afford to give the big diamond to the girl you love. And you can do it for one-tenth of the price,” Herman said.

 All earrings are already mounted. However, you can have your diamond engagement ring set in 14-carat white or yellow gold, or you can buy loose gems and bring them to your favorite jeweler for mounting. Herman says additional settings will be available soon. 

 “These diamonds are high quality, environmentally safe, conflict-free, and now very affordable,” David said. 

 Museum Nefertiti is open from 12pm to 6pm daily. There is a $10 admittance fee for the museum section but admittance to the store is free. All kids receive a complimentary fossil shark tooth. 

 To schedule a private appointment to shop for diamonds, please call 409.539.5989. 

 FISH CO. TACO GETS A SECOND LIFE Fan favorite Fish Company Taco is getting a refresh and will reopen mid-summer, said new owner and restaurateur Raz Halili. 

 Since its inception in 2018 by chef Daya Myers-Hurt, the restaurant located at 1914 23rd Street, carved a niche in Galveston’s culinary scene. Known for chef-driven, globally inspired seafood tacos and creative specials, the restaurant stood out for its commitment to seasonal ingredients and local fish market hauls. 

When Halili, a Galveston native, learned of the taco shop’s closure last October, he approached Myers-Hurt. “We want to continue the legacy of what Daya built, using the same high-quality products, creating the same great recipes, and serving the food guests have come to love.” 

 “I liked the idea behind Daya’s concept,” said Halili. “It’s exciting to relaunch something that people loved, that was successful, and keeps up a chef-driven mentality. It’ll also be fun to venture beyond San Leon. I was born on the island, so it’s a special feeling for me to be able to do something for Galveston, a place that’s a part of me.” 

 Halili grew up on the docks of his family’s renowned San Leon business, Prestige Oysters, and is the restaurateur behind Pier 6, a 2022 James Beard Award Semifinalist for Best New Restaurant. He is excited to bring the culinary talents of Pier 6’s Executive Chef Joe Cervantez and Chef de Cuisine Lexy Garcia to Fish Company Taco. 

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 The kitchen will continue its existing relationship with Katie’s Seafood Market to source local fish and utilize the market’s robust selection of unique bycatch for features. They also plan to source ingredients from Galveston’s Own Farmers Market and will make fresh tortillas using masa harina made from heirloom, non-GMO corn. 

 Pier 6 and Fish Company Taco’s shared affinity for supporting local and serving what Halili refers to as “tide-to-table” cuisine is central to the coming together of these two efforts. With roots in oyster harvesting and dedication to sustainable fishery, Halili sees the restaurants as an extension of his mission to share the bounties of the Gulf with his neighbors and area visitors. 

 A refresh of the 1,000-square-foot restaurant space includes an updated kitchen and bathroom and converting the wraparound counter into a functional bar top  

Upgrades also include new flooring, wall treatments, and décor in the dining room. It has a fun, beachy vibe with bright colors and artistic touches. The 500-square-foot back patio has also been refreshed. 

 The five core tacos (Baja, Korean, Vietnamese, Hunan, and Dirty South) will anchor the menu, along with limited-time daily specials created by Cervantez and Garcia. 

 “We’ll run daily ceviches, aguachiles, and/or crudos that will be limited, fun, and fresh,” Halili said. 

 The biggest menu change is the addition of curated, signature cocktails crafted by Ladies of Libation drinks consultants Laurie Harvey and Kris Sowell. In addition, a limited selection of wine and specialty beers will be offered. 

 The restaurant will remain counter-service and serve lunch Tuesday through Sunday from 11am to 4pm with plans to eventually include dinner service. Hours will be adjusted seasonally. 

 Fans of Meyer-Hurt’s pop-up supper club will be happy to hear that Halili plans to rekindle the concept. “I’ve eaten at Daya’s supper club, and I loved the food and the concept. Pop-up suppers are definitely in the plans for the near future,” he said. 

 For more information, visit or follow them on social media. 

 SUNSET CRUISES FROM PIER 21 Long-time Galveston resident and entrepreneur Craig Corbell will set sail with his newest business venture, the Galveston Bay Queen, this summer. Formerly the River City Star out of Omaha, Nebraska, the 100-passenger riverboat has been given a new life under the Baywatch Dolphin Tours banner. 

The boat made an 11-day trek through national and international waterways to its new home port of Galveston last summer. 

 “The boat has undergone a complete refresh and she’ll be doing some interesting things in Galveston Harbor,” said Corbell who will dock the Bay Queen in the Pier 21 marina. The two-hour sunset tour is $49 per person and will “offer views of the harbor from a unique perspective,” he said. 

 Sightseeing highlights include up-close-and-personal views of the Battleship Texas, oil rigs, dolphins and other sea life, and a front-row view of Galveston’s sensational sunsets.

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 The Bay Queen will set sail daily from Pier 21 in downtown Galveston an hour before sunset. 

 “The idea is to offer another unique activity for residents and visitors,” Corbell said. “I’m hoping folks will have a nice dinner at Fisherman’s Wharf, take a sunset cruise on the Bay Queen, have drinks downtown, enjoy the local entertainment, and stay at the Harbor House Hotel. To me, that’s the perfect getaway,” he said. 

“We want folks to come to Galveston. We want them to have fun. And we want them to come back.” 

 Placeholder imageCorbell also owns Baywatch Island Tours, Baywatch Dolphin Tours, the Haunted Mayfield Manor and Pirates! Legends of the Gulf Coast Museums and Escape Rooms. 

 Harbor House General Manager David Gwin is excited that another unique tour is being offered from Pier 21. “The height from the top of the Bay Queen gives such a unique perspective of our Galveston Bay treasures. It is an extremely smooth ride with a very beautiful background,” he said. 

 The Galveston Bay Queen is also available for group events like weddings, birthday celebrations, family reunions, fundraisers, and more.

 Guests can enjoy outdoor patio seating and air-conditioned indoor seating. Corbell encourages groups to hire their favorite caterer, DJ, or band, as the Bay Queen’s electric system can accommodate for them. 

 For more information, group rates, or event pricing, visit